It took this experience to get us from tent camping to a pop up tent camper…..Our first RV.
It was 1966 and my minister husband and I had two small boys, a ten month old who was walking but in a cast due to a broken leg and a two year old. The church my husband was serving gave him a month of vacation but we had very little money.
Going on a camping trip seemed to be the solution. So with high hopes, we purchased an 8’ by 10’ umbrella tent. We then added four fold up cots, a gas stove, an ice chest dishes, utensils, pots, pans, dish pan, towels, sleeping bags, pillows, lawn chairs, a lantern and clothes, plus a diaper pail! This was pre- disposable diaper days and both boys still needed them. Next came the problem of fitting all four of us and our gear into a VW bug.
Our first step was to remove the back seat in the car and maneuver a locker trunk into the now empty spot. We filled the locker trunk with towels and clothes. On top of the trunk we placed the cots, sleeping bags, stove, ice chest and tucked other small items in around any little space we could find. Now came the problem of where to put the tent and the lawn chairs. We solved that problem by purchasing a luggage rack which could be held on top of the car roof by using clips in the rain gutter and adjustable straps. This gave us space to place the tent and chairs. Using lots of rope, we lashed everything down and guyed the rack out to both front and back bumpers.
When all was loaded my husband and I each took a front seat but this meant the boys would have to travel on top of the heap behind the seats in a space about two feet high
and four feet square. Fortunately we made our 7 hour trip from northern Vt. to Bar Harbor, Maine with no problem.
The first two days of our vacation were great in spite of the fact that Jonathan had a toe to thigh cast and we were basically roughing it . The third night around ten I began to have violent chills and a high fever. My urine was very dark and I felt nauseous. My husband became more alarmed as my condition worsened and about midnight he went to the pay phone to check the yellow pages in order to find a doctor. Although it was now after midnight, a doctor in a town about 40 miles away told us to come over and he would see what was wrong.
It turned out I had a bad Kidney infection and when he learned we were camping, told us the best thing we could do was to pack up and go home to Vt. where my physician could continue to treat me.
So by six a.m. we were loading all our gear back into and onto the VW. That was the “trip from Hell”. My husband decided to take the Maine Turnpike over to NH and then we would head up through Vt. to home. The winds that day we fierce and the top speed we could get up to was 40 mph because the car so loaded and the rack had a high wind resistance. Every few miles, the guy ropes leading from the bumpers up to the luggage rack would loosen and the whole thing would begin to slide backwards. So time and time again we had to stop, both get out and yank the whole thing forward and retie the guyed ropes. Jonathan decided to throw a temper tantrum about once every ten miles and in frustration he would bring his leg with the cast down across my shoulders. It took us 12 hours to reach home. There were times during that trip when I felt so ill I was afraid I’d die and then times I was afraid I wouldn’t.
Guess what one of the first things we did after that camping experience? We bought a Reliart tent trailer.( trailer spelled backwards) That was our first in a line of campers eventually going all the way up to a Class C Winnebago.
That first RV, the Re had two pull out beds one the end and a storage bench down either side of the box. That was it!. We still had to take a gas stove and ice chest but to be up off the ground and have a bed was heaven. And we were able to put the back seat back in the VW giving the boys a much better space in which to ride.
So here we are fifty years later and still love camping.
Submitted by Nancy Hartley of Rutherfordton, NC as a part of the RV Centennial Celebration “Share Your Favorite RV Memory” contest.
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